On the steps of San Buenaventura City Hall stands the statue of Father Junípero Serra, founder of the eponymous Mission San Buenaventura. It is here that you’ll find Ventura’s nexus, at Father Serra’s side, its past held in its century old city hall. A quick about-face holds Ventura’s present, a meandering city street sleepily unfolding into the ocean, flanked by gently swaying palm trees. Ventura began as a long held Chumash settlement, Shisholop, later displaced by California missions, solidified in the modern context by the historic U.S. Route 101 (now Ventura Highway). Many passed through, and little by little an enraptured population remained, held steadfast by the “city of good fortune”.
Amidst Ventura’s many gifts, the ocean is what truly holds captive the hearts of the locals and enamors its many visitors. Bestowed with a wonderfully irregular coastline, beach conditions can change from point to point, resulting in a stunning variety and wide appeal for all coastline activities. Surfer’s Knoll, a popular local surf spot is just a stone's throw from Harbor Cove Beach, nicknamed ‘Mother’s Beach’ due to its protective cove creating a safe family swimming destination. San Buenaventura State Beach sprawls alongside Ventura, punctuated by its picturesque promenade and pier.
While its difficult to avert your gaze from the city’s gorgeous coastline, there’s plenty happening in the city worthy of your undivided attention. Walk the beautiful promenade at seaside Ventura Harbor Village, a bright family-friendly destination boasting dozens of boutiques, galleries bars and restaurants (many duking it out to claim the title for the city’s best fish taco - a battle we’re happy to be in the middle of!). Its proximity to the harbor also makes it the launch point for boat tours and kayak rentals, taking full advantage of its ideal locale. Further in town you’ll find a bevy of wineries taking full advantage of local California grapes and microbreweries producing some of California’s best craft beers to enjoy in outdoor patios.
Ventura’s harbors provide easy access to the stunning Channel Islands National Park and Marine Sanctuary. Comprised of five unique islands strung along the Santa Barbara Channel, these islands are home to thousands of distinct plant and animal species, earning it the nickname “The Galapagos of North America”. Numerous charter boats and adventure tour companies are on hand to help introduce these rugged coastal gems, each with their own unique pull. Santa Cruz Island is an adventure seeker's paradise, hosting challenging sea cave kayaking and unique rugged camping opportunities. Anacapa Island provides short hikes, and two distinctly wonderful viewpoints: Pinniped Point, providing a vista view of local sea lion and elephant seal colonies; and Inspiration Point, and unforgettable cliff-point panorama of the jagged coastal formations of Santa Cruz Island. Those less intrepid will undoubtedly enjoy a cruise or boat tour around the islands, particularly in the summer. Ten percent of the global blue whale populations converges on the national park each summer, providing an unmissable opportunity at an up close and personal experience with these majestic giants.
Dubbed the “land of endless summers”, it’s hard not to fall a little in love with this little beach town bursting with gifts.
Channel Islands National Park
The Channel Islands are a rugged, marvelous island chain boasting the best in outdoor opportunities in the region. Each island possesses their own unique pull and attractions, from sea lion colonies to challenging hikes to regional history.
Recommended Duration:8 Hours
The smallest and easternmost of the Channel Islands, Anacapa is actually comprised of three narrow and rugged volcanic islets: West, Middle, and East Anacapa. From razor-neck ridges to sea caves and arches--including the famous 40-foot-tall Arch Rock on East Anacapa--the scenery here is outstanding, and it's backed by ecological splendor as well.
The island is accessible by boat and the East side of the island is approximately a one hour boat ride from Oxnard or Ventura. Bird watchers will enjoy the island in May and June when thousands of western gull chicks hatch. Anacapa Island is host to the largest breeding colony of western gulls in the world. Sea lions and harbor seals also enjoy resting and breeding on the island. The best viewing spots are Cathedral Cove and Pinniped Point.
Santa Cruz Island
The biggest of the Channel Islands--and, in fact, the biggest island in all of California--Santa Cruz claims more than 10,000 years of indigenous history, an astonishing spread of ecosystems, and plenty of showstopper scenery. The striking landscape wears plenty of faces: sandy beaches and rocky tidepools, lush canyons and craggy mountaintops. Scorpion Beach is an awesome jumping-off point for divers, snorkelers, and kayakers to explore kelp forests and sea caves, while miles of hiking trails link cliffy coves and panoramic views atop high slopes Santa Rosa Island
Second-biggest of the Channel Islands, Santa Rosa rises from sandy strand and sea cliffs to a rumpled highland spine. It's a hotspot of Southern California ecology and archaeology: Among its treasures are one of only two populations of the ultra-rare Torrey pine (the other is a mainland grove north of San Diego) and precious leftovers of the indigenous Chumash, who know the island as Wima. Santa Rosa is a hiker's paradise--two of the toughest trails, Black Mountain and Lobo Canyon, are also some of the coolest in Channel Islands National Park--and also an awesome place to beachcomb and surf in a remote setting. The Island is accessible via boat. Boat services run from April through October. Travel time via boat is approximately 3 hours.
Santa Barbara Island
San Miguel Island
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Seasonal, holiday or other hours changes may apply